Honda Clarity lineup at Honda R&D Center, Tochigi, Japan, June 2017Enlarge Photo
Flooring the pedal and pushing through the click switches on the 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, which quickly builds to a muffled howl as it delivers maximum power along with the drive motor.
But briefly testing the car in "Hybrid" mode, which allows battery capacity to be conserved for later use, we found the engine to switch on so quietly and gently in most cases that it was close to imperceptible.
The plug-in hybrid Clarity is 1.2 seconds quicker to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph, our Honda engineer said, but it can reach 100 mph (160 km/h) in electric-only mode if the driver keeps the pedal above the detent.
2017 Honda Clarity ElectricEnlarge Photo
Handling of all three cars, despite their very different powertrains and weight distributions, was good but clearly that of a large, heavy, relatively luxurious sedan. These are no Civic Type R hot rods, in other words, but big, comfortable mid-size sedans with premium interior trim and features.
A couple of other factoids about the Clarity Electric we gleaned from our short drive:
We shouldn't overstate our time spent in the two plug-in Clarity versions; these are early first impressions, and we hope to spend more time with one or both when they become available to U.S. buyers and lessees.
Honda president and CEO Takahiro HachigoEnlarge Photo
Dedicated electric car: this fall
A final note: Honda has clearly learned to appreciate the enthusiasm of its earlier Fit EV drivers, some of whom have asked for and received a second renewal of their leases on the cars (some of which are now five years old).
While the company continues to feel that hydrogen fuel cells are the appropriate zero-emission powertrain for larger vehicles, it seems to be edging closer to taking battery-electric vehicles more seriously as well.
Last October, Honda set up a dedicated Electric Vehicle Development Division to design, engineer, and test entire battery-electric vehicles, which it had never had before.
The team's mandate, said Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo, is to develop a dedicated battery-electric vehicle for regions of the world outside China, which it plans to introduce this fall at a global auto show.
Honda provided airfare, lodging, local travel, and meals to enable High Gear Media to bring you this first-person drive report.